Chapter V. Sharp Words
 

"Great Scott, Tom! What happened?"

"I know as much as you, Ned. That fellow ran us down, that's all."

"Are we leaking?" and with this question Ned sprang from his place near the bow, and looked toward the stern, where the heaviest blow had been struck.

The Kilo had swung back to an even keel again, but was still bobbing about on the water.

"Any hole there?" cried Tom, as he swung the wheel over to point his craft toward shore, in case she showed a tendency to sink.

"I can't see any hole," answered Ned. "But water is coming in here."

"Then there's a leak all right! Probably some of the seams are opened, or it may be coming in around the shaft stuffing-box. Here, Ned, take the wheel, and I'll start up the engine again," for with the blow the motor had stopped.

"What are you going to do?" asked Ned, as he again made his way forward.

"Take her to shore, of course. It's deep out here and I don't want her to go down at this point."

"Say, what do you think of that fellow, anyhow, Tom?"

"I wouldn't like to tell you. Look, he's coming back."

This was so, for, as the boys watched, the big red motor boat had swung about in a circle and was headed for them.

"I'll tell him what I think of him, at any rate," murmured Tom, as he bent over his motor. "And, later on, I'll let the lawyers talk to him."

"You mean you'll sue him, Tom?"

"Well, I'm certainly not going to let him run into me and spring a leak, for nothing. That won't go with me!"

By this time Tom had the motor started, but he throttled it down so that it just turned the propeller. With it running at full speed there was considerable vibration, and this would further open the leaking seams. So much water might thus be let in that the craft could not be gotten ashore.

"Head her over, Ned," cried Tom, when he found he had sufficient headway. "Steer for Ramsey's dock. There's a marine railway next to him, and I can haul her out for repairs."

"That's the talk, Tom!" cried his chum.

By this time the big, red motor boat was close beside Tom's craft.

The man at the wheel, a stout-bodied and stout-faced man, with a complexion nearly the color of his boat, glared at the two young men.

"What do you fellows mean?" called out the man, in deep booming tones--tones that he tried to make imposing, but which, to the trained ears of Tom and Ned, sounded only like the enraged bellow of some bully. "What do you mean, I say? Getting on my course like that!"

Ned could see Tom biting his lips, and clenching his hands to keep down his temper. But it was too much. To be run into, and then insulted, was more than Tom could stand.

"Look here!" he cried, standing up and facing the red-faced man, "I don't know who you are, and I don't care. But I'll tell you one thing--you'll pay for the damage you did to my boat!"

"I'll pay for it? Come, that's pretty good! Ha! Ha!" laughed the self-important man. "Why, I was thinking of making a complaint against you for crossing my course that way. If I find my boat is damaged I shall certainly do so anyhow. Have we suffered any damage, Snuffin?" and he looked back at a grimy-faced mechinician who was oiling the big, throbbing motor, which was now running with the clutch out.

"No, sir, I don't think we're damaged, sir," answered the man, deferentially.

"Well, it's a lucky thing for these land-lubbers that we aren't. I should certainly sue them. The idea of crossing my course the way they did. Weren't they in the wrong, Snuffin?"

The man hesitated for a moment, and glanced at Tom and Ned, as though asking their indulgence.

"Well, I asked you a question, Snuffin!" exclaimed the red-faced man sharply.

"Yes--yes, sir, they shouldn't have turned the way they did," answered the man, in a low voice.

"Well, of all the nerve!" murmured Tom, and stopped his motor. Then, stepping to the side of his disabled and leaking boat, he exclaimed:

"Look here! Either you folks don't know anything about navigation rules, or you aren't heeding them. I had a perfect right to turn and go ashore when I did, for I found my engine was out of order, and I wanted to fix it. I blew the usual signal on the whistle, showing my intention to turn off my course, and if you had been listening you would have heard it."

"If you had even been watching you would have seen me shift, and then, coming on at the speed you did, it was your place to warn me by a whistle, so that I could keep straight on until you had passed me."

"But you did not. You kept right on and ran into me, and the only wonder is that you didn't sink me. Talk about me getting in your way! Why, you deliberately ran me down after I had given the right signal. I'll make a complaint against you, that's what I will."

If possible the red-faced man got even more rosy than usual. He fairly puffed up, he was so angry.

"Listen to that, will you, Snuffin!" he cried. "Listen to that! He says he blew his whistle to tell us he was going to turn in."

"That's what I did!" said Tom, calmly.

"Preposterous! Did you hear it, Snuffin?" puffed the important man.

"Yes--yes, I think I did, sir," answered the machinist, in a hesitating voice.

"You did? What! You mean to tell me you heard their whistle?"

"Yes--yes, sir!"

"Why--why--er--I--" the big man puffed and blew, but seemed to find no words in which to express himself. "Snuffin, I'll have a talk with you when we get home," he finally said. most significantly. "The idea of saying you heard a whistle blown! There was nothing of the kind! I shall make a complaint against these land-lubbers myself. Do you know who they are, Snuffin?"

"Yes--yes, sir," was the answer, as the man glanced at Tom. "At least I know one of them, sir."

"Very good. Give me his name. I'll attend to the rest."

Tom looked at the big man sharply. He had never seen him before, as far as he could recall. As for the machinist, the young inventor had a dim recollection that once the man might have worked in his shop.

"Go ahead, Snuffin!" said the big man, mopping his face with a large silk handkerchief, which, even at that distance, gave out a powerful perfume. "Go ahead, Snuffin, and we will settle this matter later," and, adjusting a large rose in his buttonhole, the self-important individual took his place on the cushioned seat at the wheel, while the big red motor boat drew off down the river.

"Well, of all the nerve!" gasped Ned. "Isn't he the limit?"

"Never mind," spoke Tom, with a little laugh. "I'm sorry I lost my temper, and even bothered to answer him. We'll let the lawyers do the rest of the talking. Take the wheel, Ned."

"But are you going to let him get away like this, Tom? Without asking him to pay for the damage to your boat, when he was clearly in the wrong?"

"Oh, I'll ask him to pay all right; but I'll do it the proper way. Now come on. If we stay here chinning much longer the Kilo will go down. I must find out who he is. I think I know Snuffin--he used to work for me, I now recall."

"Don't you know who that big man is?" asked Ned, as he took the wheel, while Tom again started the motor. The water was now almost up to the lower rim of the fly wheel.

"No; who is he?" asked Tom.

"Shallock Peters."

"Well, I know as much as I did before," laughed Tom. "That doesn't tell me anything."

"Why, I thought everybody in the town knew Shallock Peters," went on Ned. "He tried to do some business with our bank, but was turned down. I hear he's gone to the other one, though. He's what we call a get-rich-quick schemer, Tom--a promoter."

"I thought he acted like that sort of a character."

"Well, that's what he is. He's got half a dozen schemes under way, and he hasn't been in town over a month. I wonder you haven't seen or heard of him."

"I've been too busy over my photo telephone."

"I suppose so. Well, this fellow Peters struck Shopton about a month ago. He bought the old Wardell homestead, and began to show off at once. He's got two autos, and this big motor boat. He always goes around with a silk hat and a flower in his buttonhole. A big bluff--that's what he is."

"He acted so to me," was Tom's comment. "Well, he isn't going to scare me. The idea! Why, he seemed to think we were in the wrong; whereas he was, and his man knew it, too."

"Yes, but the poor fellow was afraid to say so. I felt sorry for him."

"So did I," added Tom. "Well, Kilo is out of commission for the present. Guess we'll have to finish our outing by walking, Ned."

"Oh, I don't mind. But it makes me mad to have a fellow act the way he did."

"Well, there's no good in getting mad," was Tom's smiling rejoinder. "We'll take it out of him legally. That's the best way in the end. But I can't help saying I don't like Mr. Shallock Peters."

"And I don't either," added Ned.